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Revitalizing Business Development:: Part 1 - Why Revitalization Is Needed (05-10-16)

Would you believe that a modest investment in business development modernization can improve your firm's win rate by 10%, or more, each year? Let me explain how this can happen.
Targeting winnable opportunities and putting (profitable) business on the books is every contractor's high level job description for business development. The processes and other capabilities that support business development operations, however, vary significantly, and therein are sown the seeds that govern (as in, restrict) success.
My career in government business development circles spans decades. During that time I have been privileged to see many business development shops in action, and in so doing, I have observed three major aspects of a company's business development organization that, when modernized, collectively can yield the 10% win rate improvement cited above. As described below, these areas revolve around: People, Process, and Information.
People: For several years contractors have been populating their business development engines with "by the opportunity" hired guns rather than full-time employees. I suspect this has achieved short-term cost savings by depleting full-time capture resources and augmenting them with temporaries who mostly leave capture campaigns with more insight and information than they bring. This "uber-ization" of many business development functions may save a few bucks on the front-end, but I'll bet it costs a few wins on the back-end. Exacerbating the people issue is the fact that since the sequestration and fiscal cliffs era began, the business development personnel turnover phenomenon has gone viral - our database stats suggest the turnover rate is running at a whopping 30%, or more, each year.
Process: Standard capture processes, especially those that relate to proposal development, have become too cumbersome to follow, let alone execute. Moreover, in the past, they failed to demand a rigorous Price To Win (PTW) analysis. In recent years, however, capture managers who used to resist PTW (i.e., the process that studies competitor capabilities to determine the price needed win) are increasingly being required to present or confront PTW results at management opportunity Gate Reviews. Process is slowly coming around to the fact that, regardless of what RFPs say, price is almost always the single most important determinant of a competitive contract award. Making price the driver of opportunity solution, teaming, and pursuit escalation can dramatically improve not just win rates, but "no bid" rates, too - thus conserving pursuit funds.
Information: For most contractors there is no cultural imperative to remember, let alone capture, pre-position, share, and re-use information that has been paid for in both time and money. Business development management is almost universally content to pay over and over to acquire the same information. I suspect the reason there is little, or no, company investment in the cultural training and tools needed to establish a business development infostructure is because learned information is not valued either as a resource or as a force multiplier. Thus companies perpetuate the creation of "dark data" - i.e., information that exists solely in peoples' heads rather than in databases that can be accessed and re-purposed. It is amazing to me that information developed by one pursuit team is rarely recorded and made available to another capture team. Possibly the most valuable compendium of information that a business development activity can create and maintain is a just such a database of detailed after-action reports of past, win-lose-or-draw, capture campaigns.
Let's connect some dots. If you revisit the last sentence under the "People" paragraph, you will understand that personnel turnover, and the drain it represents on the corporate memory, is very significant. This alone should provide the impetus to embark on the quest to develop an environment and a culture that together can, over time, produce a significant win rate improvement.
It is understood that business development's job is to produce wins. But without action on some or all of the issues discussed herein, however, the future is likely to produce ever fewer wins against competitors who see the future in the shortcomings enumerated above - and who take action, now, to eliminate them.
If you see merit in this assessment of contemporary business development practices, and would like to understand how they can be improved to yield better results, Part 2: How To Revitalize Business Development, will be available soon. If you wish to receive a copy please send me an email at or call me at (301) 807 8171.
To request training information, a PTW proposal, or to buy a book, please contact:
  • Jennifer Weinberg for PTW Professional Development Training - her phone number is (301) 840 5959 and her email is; or
  • Rich Brown for a proposal to do a PTW study on a specific opportunity - his phone number is (301) 704 1289 and his email is
My PTW Book - Hope Is Not A Winning Strategy... ... But Price To Win Is - is always available from Amazon as are copies of the other books in our Roadmap To BD Success Series. If there are any other issues related to Price To Win (PTW), pricing strategies or bid price development that you would like to discuss please call me, Tony Constable, on (301) 807 8171.
Good luck, and happy hunting!
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